We knocked on the door of an old cigar factory in the middle of Queens after hours. A woman who goes by the name of Ginger Snap let us in and we immediately found ourselves in the heart of NYC’s roller derby scene. As we tried our best not to get knocked over and keep our video equipment safe, dozens of helmeted, mini-skirt-wearing, bad-ass women flew around us on rollerskates, smashing into each other as they got down to their practice scrimmage. The four teams that make up NYC’s female roller derby league, The Gotham Girls, meet here in what they call the "Crashpad." It’s a remote location, but with New York’s rental rates, it’s what the league can afford.
Ginger Snap (her real name is Natily Blair) told us that most of the women just go by their derby tags when they’re together and some of them don’t even know their real names. With aliases like Ariel Assault, Bonnie Thunders, and Bitchie Slambora, the Gotham Girls raise hell at a roller rink in the Bronx each month with their bruising, and sometimes bloody, roller derby bouts.
The Gotham Girls are one of over 40 leagues across the nation that take part in this gritty sport, and are divided into 4 teams: The Manhattan Mayhem, Queens of Pain, Bronx Gridlock and Brooklyn Bombshells. Women of all ages and athletic ability participate in the bouts and take pride in developing skills as tough as their names. Tankerbell, a team member from the Manhattan Mayhem, told me that she broke her nose in her debut bout. Ouch! Ginger Snap and the other ladies we met, explained the dedication of the women, their coaches, and their fans. There’s such an intensity to the sport, in its hardcore athleticism and in its the camaraderie. We hope the video below conveys it!
Roxy Balboa gave us some insights into the role of fashion in roller derby. She’s responsible for designing all the costumes for the NYC-based teams, though she says it’s all about the ladies adding their own personal flair. She’s also got an Etsy shop, roxybalboa, but roller derby has taken over all her free time!
Li’l Red Terror, an Etsy seller who goes by kellyk17 on Etsy, volunteers to help run the roller derby organization in addition to her fulltime job. Roller derby is totally DIY and member-run—everything from renting their space "the Crashpad" to putting on games, referred to as "bouts."
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